A developer has nixed plans to build an apartment complex on a downtown Frederick site, less than 24 hours after the city’s Historic Preservation Commission gave a mixed ruling on his request for demolition.
Tarek Aly, principal of Suitland Road LLC, the business entity that owns 56 and 58-70 S. Market St., told The Frederick News-Post on Friday that he decided against moving forward with the project. On Thursday, the city’s Historic Preservation Commission reviewed Aly’s application to demolish the freestanding brick facades at 58-70 S. Market St.
The commission approved demolition of one set of facades, at 66-70 S. Market St., but deemed the second set at 58-60 S. Market St. a contributing resource to the Frederick Town Historic District, The News-Post has reported. The commission could have approved demolition of the second facade, but only at a separate public hearing and based on specific requirements of its guidelines.
Several commission members indicated they would not want the facade torn down, instead suggesting that it could be incorporated into the new building.
Based on the commission’s vote and subsequent workshop discussion on new construction at the site, Aly said he no longer wants to proceed. He doesn’t plan on submitting plans for a new project, either.
“I don’t have the time and the energy,” he said. “We’re going to invest somewhere else.”
Commission Chairman Scott Winnette wrote in an email that he could not comment on Aly’s decision because the city still considers the HPC application an open case. Commission members are discouraged from commenting on open cases outside of public hearings.
Mayor Randy McClement also indicated he did not consider the project officially over. When informed about Aly’s decision Friday, he said city staff members would contact Aly to “see what his concerns are.”
Even if the project folds, Richard Griffin, the city’s economic development director, said he was optimistic that someone else would develop the property.
“I’m disappointed, of course, but I am optimistic that there will be others that will see an opportunity there,” he said.
Aly, however, told The News-Post that he wasn’t planning to sell the property. Instead, he would leave the two free-standing facades and roofless building as they are.
“It still has good value,” he said.
Asked why he’d pay property taxes on the abandoned site with no plans to develop or sell it, he responded, “That’s just my decision.”
Aly previously applied for and received commission approval for demolition of the facades, as well as rehabilitation of the roofless building next door and first-level site plans. Those approvals were granted in 2012, and have since expired, forcing him to reapply.
Aly blamed the expiration of the approvals on misunderstanding how long those decisions lasted. He said he thought the approvals didn’t expire for three years, when in fact they expired after two years. When he realized the approvals would be invalid by July, he said, he tried to contact city staff members, but couldn’t schedule a public hearing until now.
Based on plans submitted to the city Planning Commission this spring, Aly planned to transform the site into a two-building, three-story apartment complex with retail space on the ground floors.
If he had moved ahead with the project, he would have needed several additional approvals from the historic preservation and planning commissions before construction could begin.
The property’s condition has remained largely unchanged since the city approved demolition of the dilapidated buildings, apart from the facades, at 58-70 S. Market St. in 2000. At the time, replacement plans were expected but didn’t materialize.
Aly paid $153,000 for the property at a tax sale in 2011, according to online property records. As of July 1, the property was valued at $145,000.
The property was identified as one of 30 on the city’s blighted property list and property watch list created in 2014. As of the Oct. 1 quarterly update, it is still listed as a property to watch, although there are no open code violations, according to the city’s online database.